A new campaign aimed at helping families cope with heartbreaking life-or-death decisions about relatives struck down by stroke and other incapacitating illness has been launched by senior health professionals and lawyers.
With only three percent of people in the UK having ‘a living will’ pre-specifying what kind of treatment and care they want should they lose the capacity to decide, families can be devastated by disputes over what action to take.
In response, a new not-for-profit website – My Living Will – allows for a ‘personalized individualized’ Living Will to be created with confidence so if illness strikes, people’s wishes about how they want to be treated are clear to their doctors, carers and loved ones.
Professor Isky Gordon and I, of University College London, have launched My Living Will with the support of senior healthcare experts, lawyers and ethicists. A living will consists of both a ‘Statement of Preferences and Wishes’ and an ‘Advance Decision’ to refuse treatment, through a series of guided steps using the site’s planning tool. Relevant clinical conditions and treatments are detailed, allowing individuals to think about what they might want to do if there is a loss of capacity.
Writing a living will involves making difficult decisions about circumstances we prefer not to think about, but many people don’t know the treatment options available and the consequences of refusing such treatments. This is why we have created a clear and comprehensive tool to help support people plan for their end of life care.
My Living Will also provides in-depth information to help people understand the rights they have under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 framework, explaining the legal status of an Advance Statement and Advance Decision, as well as their relationship with a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare.
My Living Will has been welcomed by organisations involved in end-of-life issues – including: AGE (UK) Camden, Dying Matters, Co-ordinate My Care, as well as individual GPs, palliative care physicians and other health professionals – as a way to encourage and guide those who wish to make a living will.
In addition to individuals that create their own living will, the website can also be used as a training tool for health professionals, carers and volunteers.
To read more about end of life decisions, read our blog on the issues surrounding living wills at http://blog.ilcuk.org.uk/2016/01/07/lets-talk-about-death/